The Science Behind Fireworks

Bonfire night is fast approaching…children and grownups wait patiently to observe the bursts of magical colour explosions. Metal elements react with metal compounds creating magnificent reactions, leaving behind their trails of glistening sparkle glow. Did you know the deep orange shimmer is formed from calcium salts?

These colourful explosions are not a modern-day phenomenon, they have been around since the 2nd century BC and originated from China. The bamboo and fire reactions soon advanced in 600AD when people began to add chemicals and gunpowder to the mix, this was the beginning of paper tube firework creations.

Chemistry is the driving force behind these dazzling displays, the spectacular colours are a result of metal compounds reacting with oxidisers that supply oxygen. Most colours are produced by carefully mixing these chemical compounds and each compound forms a different colour. Get yourself fully equipped for bonfire night, why not show off in front of friends and family by teaching them the science behind fireworks?

Explosive Colours Created

  • Strontium carbonate burns red
  • Calcium chloride burns orange
  • Sodium nitrate burns yellow
  • Barium chloride burns green
  • Copper chloride burns blue

Firework in a Jar Activity

Are you looking to create a safe and colourful explosion in your classroom or in the comfort of your own home? For all those little ones who are excited to see the sparkling blasts this week, attempt some creations in the kitchen. This activity can be used as a fantastic sensory activity for toddlers and is completely free! Ask your friends to bring their little ones to join you for some science firework fun.

You will need some cooking oil, food colouring and a jar to get started.
1) Fill your jar with ¾ of warm water
2) In a bowl mix a tablespoon of oil and 6 drops of different colours of food colouring (any colours you can find in the cupboard)
3) Mix the food colouring and oil together
4) Pour the oil into the jar of water
5) The food colouring will slowly sink out of the oil and into the water

Food colouring doesn’t dissolve in oil but will dissolve in water. Because the oil is less dense than the water it will float to the top and the coloured droplets will sink into the water displaying a colourful explosion in the jar.

Magic Milk Experiment

Are you looking for a stress-free activity for kids? This experiment can be set up at home or in the classroom and provides beautiful visuals for children enabling them to identify movement and patterns. Why not use this as a messy play activity with toddlers and become scientists for the day! If the older ones like to join in, ask them some questions to get their brains ticking. What colours can they see? What is reacting in the dish?

You will need some full fat milk, food colouring and some washing up liquid to get going.
1) Pour full fat milk into the bottom of a dish
2) Add 6-7 drops of food colouring to the milk (choose 2-3 different colours)
3) Dip a cotton bud into some washing up liquid and swirl the milk.

A colourful explosion takes place and the fat from the milk reacts with the soap. The food colouring enables us to see the chemical reaction taking place and the colours flow throughout the milk forming pretty patterns.

If you are still on the hunt for a joyous outdoor celebration, we have created a list of bonfire night events in Kent. Find out what firework celebrations are taking place near you for 2019


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